Study: Online monitoring can help reduce nuclear plant operations and maintenance costs

By Ken Canavan, for Power

Dec 06, 2017

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The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) continues to increase its online monitoring and automation research and development (R&D) portfolio for nuclear plants with a goal to reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. With four technical reports already published and many more in the works, EPRI’s efforts span a full spectrum of online monitoring (OLM) and automation-related topics.

A gap analysis comparing the current state to the desired state of OLM implementation at nuclear facilities revealed significant savings across a variety of areas, including preventive maintenance costs. "A major change in our R&D is to focus more on using OLM to reduce O&M costs, specifically eliminating manual preventive maintenance tasks,” said Christopher Kerr, principal technical leader at EPRI.

While a few nuclear operators have already implemented OLM programs, others have been more hesitant. To help, EPRI’s Online Monitoring Guide for Equipment Diagnostics and Reliability-Nuclear Generation (3002010577) details the systematic development and implementation of an effective plant-monitoring program. Published in May 2017, the report covers how to define the monitoring program’s goals, project scope, implementation plans, and more.

“To make sure the process is scalable, we considered different business cases in the report—because a model that might work for a fleet of plants won’t necessarily translate to a smaller scale single nuclear unit at a company that also has fossil assets,” Kerr explained.

Concurrently, EPRI published Developing a Technical Basis for Using On-Line Equipment Condition Monitoring to Reduce Time-Based Preventive and Predictive Maintenance (3002010579). This report identifies plant equipment to be monitored based on historical preventive maintenance costs, and determines the parameters to be monitored based on equipment failure mechanisms.

“For instance, instead of performing time-based maintenance, you can monitor the vibration of a pump to warn of bearing failure before it occurs,” Kerr said.

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